2021 and the New Normal

Cemal Merdan
President of the Turkish Federation of Persons with Orthopedic Disabilities

The COVID-19 pandemic has been Türkiye’s main agenda item for the last two years. Despite all the problems that it created, the pandemic has had a positive impact on the way in which people with disabilities are perceived. Perhaps it can be said that this global troubelsome has had some benefits too. The COVID-19 pandemic that affected people deeply and left negative traces on the world reminded us the importance of appreciating life. As we were not allowed to leave our houses during times when curfews were imposed, some people learned to empathize with individuals who have disabilities and who have been alienated from society. These people are locked in their homes as cities and other places are not accessible for them. The general public were locked up in their homes, could not engage in social activities, see their loved ones or touch them. While their loved ones laid unconsciously in hospitals, the world began to realize that there are some people who experience this situation throughout their entire lives.  

This awareness became the starting point for acts of kindness, and contributed to people and institutions increasingly playing their roles in eliminating problems that occurred in the past and which may occur in the future. Society went beyond understanding each other, and the walls between people with disabilities and those without were eliminated thanks to social media. Everyone had to see and communicate with each other behind a screen and disabilities were not visible. Social media was considered as a savior in the new normal, and indeed it was for a while. 

We (the Turkish Federation of Persons with Orthopedic Disabilities) represent 53 member foundations and 400 thousand disabled members registered on these foundations. We create solutions for accessibility, awareness, and social problems of persons with disabilities in terms of architecture, education, health, and legal aspects. We offer consulting services to local authorities and government executives, and we continue our efforts to reach the following goals: 

  • To ensure the proper organization of individuals with disabilities
  • To be able to fight for the target audience within the conscious civil society movement
  • To have technological and medical equipment adequate enough to participate in social life
  • To ensure social rehabilitation
  • To arrange organizations that ensure social integration, bring people together, and aim to ensure an equal right to life
  • To act on the principle of equal citizenship and constantly improving the rights of persons with disabilities
  • To expand the culture of living together with persons with disabilities
  • To represent health, education, accessibility, legal, social, and cultural issues of disabled individuals based on the principle of equality

As a Federation, we directed our efforts to increase awareness resulting from the new normal in 2021. We made sure that cultural, artistic, and scientific works of disabled persons had a larger appearance on social media. We held online talks. We prioritized social movements of kindness. We conducted joint activities with all NGOs, especially the Turkish Red Crescent, to show that people with disabilities are not just demanders but also individuals who give and produce. We conducted humanitarian aid actions for people in need. We increased our culture of living together by integrating all individuals of society into our activities.

We believe that a happy and peaceful society is possible if we do not attach meanings to appearances, develop a human-centered perspective, and overcome negative paradigms. Don’t you think so? Then, let’s shout together: There’s no Barrier to Sharing Life!”

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